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Mario's Interview of the Month with Sergio Lara
Godin Multiac Nylon SA
After releasing six successful CDs with World Music duo Lara & Reyes for the Higher Octave label, Latin Grammy nominated artist Sergio Lara decided to venture out on his own and form his own label, Fusion Acustica Music. His new CD Con la Lluvia - which means “With the Rain”-features Sergio as writer, performer, and producer, and he’s enjoying every minute of it. I was delighted to have had the chance to talk to Sergio recently for this month’s “Conversations”. Enjoy.

Mario : Congratulations on your new CD, it sounds great and a little different from your past CD's. Did you intentionally approach the writing and/or production differently?

Sergio : Thank you Mario. Sure, since the pre-production of my new CD "Con La LLuvia" which involved the writing and arrangements of the tunes, it was different than in the past because this time I wrote all the compositions myself and I was the sole producer of the project. On my last 6 CDs I'd always been a partner, and I enjoyed the partnerships but I realize I do like being the boss; I do like saying what goes. The biggest difference is that I'm producing and doing it so there's less discussion, obviously. I enjoy that process. I feel a lot more comfortable. There are also a number of new tunes on this album that have another side of my writing and of my personality and that I want to explore more.

Mario : Besides the guitar, what other instruments did you play on the CD?

Sergio : Well, I play different instruments including various types of guitars depending on the tune: the Godin Multiac for some leads and as a synth controller, which it is absolutely the best MIDI controller that I have ever used; also Flamenco Spanish guitars, acoustic steel string guitars, acoustic and electric mandolins like my Godin A-8 which I love, ukulele, and many different percussion instruments like cajon, shakers, clave, guiro, ocarinas, and tambourine.

Mario : You released the new CD on your own label. What made you decide to start your own record label?

Sergio : Many reasons. After being an exclusive artist for 12 years with Higher Octave Music and releasing 6 CDs with Lara & Reyes, it was time for a change. Our last CD was "World Jazz" and we got a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Pop Album of the year 2001. After this, our recording contract ended and I felt the need to continue my career on my own, with my own name and my band and do my own thing. I talked to a few labels after the record deal ended and I came to the conclusion that I don't want to go back to dealing with a record company or publisher, since I believe that they are Pre-historic in their approach and like many musicians, I also feel that anything is better than the current structure, so the regular "usual" record deal is no longer attractive to me. Radio has changed, labels are more interested in making money fast than developing an artists' career. So this way, I can release as many CDs as I want a year and work on different projects that I am interested in. Also, now I own my own music, which is a much preferred scenario for any musician. With my small company "Fusion Acustica Music", I have people I can trust who really care about the music and spend time and attention to help market the CDs.

Mario : Will you be touring in support of the record and if so, how many musicians will you be touring with?

Sergio : Yes, we are planning a tour for the Summer. My choice is the quartet configuration, with me on guitar, a violin player, a bass player, and a percussionist, but it is also possible that we will tour as a trio with another guitar and violin. My main focus right now is promoting the new CD on radio, TV, magazines, and the internet.

Mario : What's your set-up when you play live and how does it differ from your studio set-up?

Sergio : In the studio I use condenser microphones for the acoustic instruments and with electric instruments like the Multiac I go direct to the board. In concert I also go direct to the board with my Multiac Nylon, which has been my main live guitar for more than 3 years now. After playing acoustic nylon string guitars for many years and experimenting with every new pickup available, outboard preamps, many different small cables and literally suffering 10 rounds on stage with feedback and other hassles, I found the Godin Multiac with the RMC pickup and it made a world of difference. So from the Multiac I go to an Alesis or Lexicon digital reverb, a Boss tuner and direct to the board.

Mario : Instrumental nylon string guitar has really exploded in recent years and it keeps getting re-categorized style-wise. Where do you think it's going?

Sergio : Well, that is a tough question to answer. The way I see it is that there are many guitarists that are attracted to Latin rhythms, Flamenco and Latin flavoured music and want to get into that style because they are influenced by those cultures, but they are not necessarily from those cultures, so it can't have the depth and it's going to sound superficial. Music is a cultural expression and it does have roots that are important and so it's not going to sound like the real thing. I am not against players exploring music from other cultures, but most of the guitar music that I hear on the radio that has a Flamenco or Latin flavour sounds very superficial to me. Having said that, there are still some great nylon string guitarists out there pushing the envelope and contributing to guitar music in a very deep way, so I think that the real artists will keep releasing great new projects in the future and the other ones will just get on whatever the new fad is.

Mario : Any new artists that you are listening to?

Sergio : I'm still really inspired by John McLaughlin. Every new project that he puts out is a new wonderful work of art of the highest level. I love his acoustic guitar playing but his new electric guitar work (on a Godin LGXT, by the way) on the Remember Shakti projects is simply awesome. Him and my dear friend, guitarist Jorge Strunz, are the main players that I study on a regular basis. Jorge is a wonderful, outrageous player. He always plays so clear and smooth, one note would blend into the next, he has incredible technique and his compositions are a master class in itself. He is just one of the all time greats. Great artist and has a big heart as well. I don't think I am listening to anything I wasn't listening to five years ago outside of a few new projects by artists like flamenco guitarist Vicente Amigo, Bela Fleck, Eliades Ochoa and Bireli Lagrene to name a few. I really enjoy and always look forward to new CDs by some of my favorite artists like John McLaughlin, Jorge Strunz, Al Di Meola, Pat Metheny, mandolin players David Grisman and Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Paco de Lucia, Bireli Lagrene, Tony Rice, and Norman Blake. I guess a lot of the things that inspire me are in the Latin/Jazz vein, but I am also a big fan of Flamenco and Bluegrass music.

Mario : If someone would like to get into this type of music who would you suggest they start listening to?

Sergio : Well, my music is influenced by a mixture of elements; rhythms from Latin America and the Caribbean, Flamenco, Bluegrass, old Swing, Blues, Jazz and the spirit of Jazz which is the spirit of improvisation and that is a very important part of my music. I am also influenced by folk music from different parts of the world like India, Ireland, Mexico, and Africa. I am a fan of many styles of music and have listened and study them from its roots to the modern players. I would say that I try to be as original as possible, so I will name just a few artists that I would think have had a big influence in my music: The place to start for Latin music would be Cuba. There is a vast amount of recordings available from many artists like the early recordings of Celia Cruz and La Sonora Matancera to the Cuarteto Oriente, Cuarteto Patria with Eliades Ochoa, Quinteto de la Trova and many more. As far as Flamenco guitarists there is the work of Sabicas, Ramon Montoya and Mario Escudero to Paco de Lucia, Tomatito and Vicente Amigo and singers like Camaron de la Isla and Enrique Morente that are very important among many others. For Bluegrass from Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs to the New Grass Revival, guitarist Tony Rice, the David Grisman Quintet, Alan Munde, Norman Blake and the Sam Bush Band among many others. The early Blues from Robert Johnson and Leadbelly to Mississippi John Hurt, Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter. Many artists in the Rock world have also been very important in my life, The Beatles and after that especially John Lennon and George Harrison; Jimmi Hendrix, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Leon Russell, many songwriters like Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Croce, John Denver, Eagles, Henry Gross and Seals & Crofts.The early Country music recordings of Chet Atkins, Willie Nelson and people like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. For Jazz of course the early Django Reinhardt recordings are very important but also the work of the horn players like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Cannonball Aderly to the fusion movement also with Miles, John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, his period with Shakti, the Super Trio of McLaughlin with Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucia, and all of John's acoustic work with his various bands, also Pat Metheny and his many projects and the work of Jorge Strunz from his band Caldera to his wonderful recordings with Strunz & Farah.

Mario : Where can someone pickup your new CD?

Sergio : At this point it is available on my website www.sergiolara.com and at my live concerts as well as a few stores as an import. I am working on a distribution deal for the US and Canada, so I hope that it will be available in most important record stores soon.

Mario : Any last comments?

Sergio : Just to thank you so much for the interview and your interest. I am a big fan of Godin guitars and feel very fortunate to play these great instruments. They fill a big void in the industry. So keep up the great work and thanks again.

*Mario Biferali is a Product Specialist at Godin Guitars.




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